SPORTS DIGEST by Bill Byham

Bill Byham (WOL File Photo)

Bill Byham (WOL File Photo)

BILL PICKELNER AS I SAW HIM – Nellie and I were brand new in town. We had purchased a home out on West Central Avenue in South Williamsport. It was a great home for our family but we had a “bug” of some kind in the coal furnace.

We had lived down state for six years in a coal heated home. Coming to South and a coal furnace we felt knew how to handle the furnace. That is until one night when I was with my Mountie basketball team on a trip to Canton on a very cold and icy night. On arriving home I walked right over to the closest radiator, put my cold butt on it before I took in the words coming from a blanket wrapped Nellie.

“That is isn’t going to help. The furnace is out. Something’s wrong.”

Being the man of the house I figured I could have heat in just a few minutes but the man in the house failed and we did the night without any heat.

The next day I called Pickelner Coal and they sent over this man who came to our door with a blue suit, neck tie, white shirt and in an overcoat.

“I’m here to take a look at your furnace. My name is Bill Pickelner.”

You all know about coal. We were using the smallest size coal and every time you came in contact with it, it marked you black with dust. One did not come with a white shirt, a neck tie, and in very nice suit but since my family was living in a heatless house in a winter season. I just wanted my furnace fixed. I did not care how the man was dressed.

Down in the basement, Bill Pickelner took off his suit coat, rolled up his sleeves and went right to work seeking a solution. In a matter of minutes he gave us an answer, got out my coal shovel, did something with the “worm” that was jammed and refired my furnace. Just like that!

It was later than I got to know the man who loved sports, loved them enough to work hard to keep them going. He was, to me, Mr. Professional Ball. The baseball Williamsport Grays plus the basketball Williamsport Billies.

When I began “moon lighting” in radio for WMPT, Bill would call for air time about his fund raising efforts for one or both of those teams. Everyone who knew the man knew that he had dipped into his own pocket to carry a project to a goal.

It seemed he was always carrying a load on some project. The Grays, Brotherhood and several other charitable organizations in which he put himself right in the middle of the planning.

I saw him hurt at times. Like when the Phillies of years ago pulled out of Bowman with the Double A Eastern League. Somehow he convinced the brand new New York Mets to come here but that was followed by a series of bad baseball moves. That hurt Pick as he saw pro baseball losing ground. We saw him hurt when he and his wife lost a son. But the real hurt came when Mrs. Pickelner passed away. I wrote about that and Bill called me with tears in his voice and told me how hurt he was.

It was Lou Hunsinger, Jr, (I’m sure Lou will have his say on the passing of Bill) who called my home last Friday night to let Nellie and I know about the passing of Bill. It was not a shock as people had been telling me for weeks he was not doing good. I had called him some time ago to see if he would allow me to fill this Digest space with his story. He was, on that day, not well. I made it a plan to come at him later but never did. A mistake, one I deeply regret.IT “SMELLED” GOOD – I chose to attend the Lewisburg – South Williamsport basketball game this past Friday night at South.

It “smelled” good.

I am not talking odor. I am talking about high school basketball played between two long time rivals in a gymnasium that had brought out a good sized crowd that added the loud support each fans group gave their hometown favorites.

Despite a South Williamsport 3-0 record, Lewisburg arrived as the favorites due to their overall experience and a team that boasted a much taller group of players. It turned out that the pre game predictors were right but had to hold their breath until the Burg put that tallness to work along with some solid three point shooting to walk away from South during the second half.

Despite leading by as many as 15 points or more in those last two quarters, South’s rookie coach, Max Webster, had his kids still going 100% so the Lewisburg staff kept their best on the floor just in case of a run at that long lead. With just a few minutes to go, almost by some agreement, both coaches went down their benches and played their roster in closing out the game.

That is why I say it “smelled” good. Two teams going at each other. Had the crowd “in” the game. Every player used gave it their best. The coaches did their best. The three game officials have it their best.

It was why I chose to go. To see the game. See one team a winner while the loser played their best at that given night. When it was over, it was over. I left the gymnasium feeling refreshed. It smelled good.

Thats 30

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